Ln an exchange with eighteen young people at the Elysee Palace on September 30, the Head of State affirmed that before the French occupation of Algeria, he “There were previous colonizations”. According to The world, he added: “Me, I am fascinated to see the capacity that Turkey has to make us totally forget the role it played in Algeria and the domination it exercised. And to explain that we are the only colonizers, it’s great. Algerians believe in it. “
President Macron is wrong for at least five reasons when he equates the Ottoman Empire’s tutelage over the province of Algiers from the early 1520s to the early 1830s as colonization.
Obviously, Turkey is not the Ottoman Empire. This country is only one of the many successors of a vast polyglot and cosmopolitan empire which stretched from the province of Algiers to the Euphrates, and from the Balkans to the gates of the Sahara.
More importantly, unlike the French, the Ottomans did not invade Algiers. It is the elites of this city, merchants, religious scholars and notables who appealed to the sultans of Istanbul from 1519. The Algerians sought the support of a Muslim power to face the danger that represented the offensives launched by the Christian Habsburgs of Spain on the coasts of the Maghreb.
Even more revealing: as in other Ottoman provinces in the Maghreb, these governors of Algiers (the deys) had a wide margin of maneuver. They signed treaties with European powers without always referring to Istanbul. They collected taxes which they used within the province and which they did not have to be donated to Istanbul. Nothing to do with the strong control of the French state over the three departments of Algeria. And for good reason, the Ottoman Empire and the French colonial state did not have the same techniques of government. The Ottoman Sultanate is an Ancien Régime empire which ruled vast areas with limited resources, through the combined use of negotiation and repression. Colonial France is based on a modern, military-fiscal state, the fruit of revolutions, of the Empire and its total wars, of print and of the telegraph …
Another notable difference: the Ottoman power never sought to encourage massive migrations to occupy lands in the Maghreb. Istanbul has certainly sent a few thousand soldiers, janissaries, on a regular basis to the province of Algiers as well as to the neighboring provinces of Tunis and Tripoli. These soldiers, coming especially from the center of the Empire, Anatolia and the Balkans, have – it is true – repressed in the violence of the local uprisings. They seized land resources, including land around major cities. But the numbers of these soldiers were in no way comparable to French troops and European settlers who settled in Algeria.
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“Emmanuel Macron is mistaken when he assimilates the old Ottoman tutelage over Algeria to a colonization”